H. sapiens type

Thu Aug 24 12:17:42 CDT 1995

Stearn (1959:4) stated specifically, "Since for nomenclatorial purposes
the specimen most carefully studied and recorded by the author is to be
accepted as the type, clearly Linnaeus himself, who was much addicted to
autobiography, must stand as the type of his _Homo sapiens!_"

The act of lectotypification is the most loosely moderated act of typification
in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.  Virtually any casual
remark, if it unambiguously points to a specimen in the original type series,
can document the selection of a lectotype--even unintentionally.  It also
need not even be in a systematic review or revision (unlike the rigorous
restrictions of the selection of a neotype)--or for that matter, it need not
even be in any kind of scientific paper.  The _Code_ is very loose in this

The "type series" of _Homo sapiens_ (the syntypes) would of course be the
specimens to which Linnaeus referred in his description of _H. sapiens_
(Linnaeus 1758:20-24).  He referred to various races (Ferus, Americanus,
Europaeus, Asiaticus, Afer, and Monstrosus), and he listed some earlier
references.  Aside from the aspects of human culture which form most of
his diagnosis of _H. sapiens_, Linnaeus provided sufficient morphological
descriptions to recognize variations within the species.  As for the type
specimens, not only must we assume that they comprised the people of the
races from which Linnaeus derived his diagnosis, but we must include
Linnaeus's personal experiences with himself (even if other arguments
fail).  That Linnaeus selected no one specimen for his description means
only that he had at least himself upon which to found the species; but it
is still clear from the breakdown of the various races that he had
multiple specimens upon which the description was formulated, since he
himself would not have had all of the described characters.  Furthermore,
the _Code_ provides two pertinent statements which are only Recommendations:

"Reocmmendation 73B.  Preference for specimens seen by author.--The
holotype of a new nominal species-group taxon should be designated from the
specimens studied by the author, not from specimens known to the author
only from descriptions or illustrations in the literature."

"Recommendation 73F.  Avoidance of assumption of holotype.--Where no
holotype was designated and where it is possible that a nominal species-
group taxon was based on more than one specimen, an author should proceed
as though syntypes may exist and, where appropriate, should designate a
lectotype rther than assume a holotype...."

That Linnaeus himself was very likely a part of the syntypic suite for
_H. sapiens_ can be argued for by considering that he wrote his
autobiography five times (see Malmestrom & Uggla 1957).

As for the unambiguous identification of the lectotype, illustrations and
descriptions of Linnaeus abound in the literature.  The specimen itself
is deposited in the cathedral at Uppsala (see Jackson, 1923:340-341, who
described the burial and identified the precise location of the vault).
Finally, W. T. Stearn (written communication, 1995) points out that the
site is identified with the inscription, "'Ossa Caroli a Linne,' a remark
relevant in a zoological context."

Literature Cited

Jackson, B.D.  1923.  Linnaeus.  H.F. & G. Witherby, London, 416 pp.

Linnaeus, C.  1758.  Caroli Linnaei....  Systema naturae per regna tria
     naturae....  Tomus I.  Editio decima, reformata.  Laurentii Salvii,
     Holmiae, 823 pp.

Malmestrom, E. & A.Hj. Uggla.  [1957.]  (eds.) Vita Caroli Linnaei.
     Carl von Linnes sjalvbiografier.  Almqvist and Wiksell, Stockholm,
     235 pp.

Stearn, W.T.  1959.  The background of Linnaeus's contributions to the
     nomenclature and methods of systematic biology.  Systematic Zoology,

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